Mexican Latter-day Saints can identify and celebrate a long list of happy, historic moments of Church history in their nation.
After all, the Church has enjoyed a steady presence in Mexico for well over a century when missionaries first arrived in the mid-19th century.
In 1961, the country’s first stake — the Mexico Stake — was created. Twenty-two years later, the first of 13 temples here — the Mexico City Mexico Temple — was dedicated. And later, Mexico would become the first country outside of the United States to hold more than 100 stakes.
But until recently, this country of almost 1.5 million Latter-day Saints did not have a single young single adult ward.
That changed a few months ago with the creation of the Politécnico YSA (Young Single Adult) Ward of the Mexico City Arbolillo Stake. It’s not only the first young single adult ward in Mexico, the Politécnico unit is believed to be the first of its kind in Latin America.
Belonging to a young single adult ward “has been amazing,” said Karime Cardenas. “There is such a special spirit being part of the classes and sacrament meetings.”
A 29-year-old returned missionary, Cardenas wondered if there would ever be a young single adult ward in her country. “But now this time has come for my country and I’m really happy and blessed. I know the Lord knows and loves us and He expects great things of us to help Him gather Israel.”
While Cardenas and many other Mexican Latter-day Saint young single adults may have waited awhile for a ward of their own, they say their patience is being rewarded.
Leaders in Mexico, meanwhile, said the Politécnico Ward is proving to be a blessing for many.
“We are so excited about this new ward,” said Elder Rafael E. Pino, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the Mexico Area.
Elder Pino’s counselor and fellow General Authority Seventy, Elder Hugo Montoya, presided over the creation of the Politécnico YSA Ward. As the father of a young single adult, he admits to a soft spot for this vital demographic.
“I know their needs and I know [this ward] can provide solutions in their lives,” he told the Church News.
Much discussion and prayer preceded the creation of Mexico’s first young single adult ward, added Elder Montoya. Classes are offered in Spanish and English — and its assigned meetinghouse is spacious enough for a sizable congregation, all in compliance with current pandemic directions.
“They are already doing great things,” he said.
The Politécnico YSA Ward also offers new levels of fellowshipping for the 18- to 29-year-olds attending. Many of the young members are living in Mexico’s sprawling capital, far from their respective hometowns and families. Some are studying at area universities. Others are employees at the Mexico City Missionary Training Center.
“They feel a sense of belonging in the YSA ward where they worship alongside people in similar situations,” said Elder Helamán Montejo, an Area Seventy, in a Newsroom release. “And they are blessed to have a bishop who is totally focused on them, allowing them to be well cared for.”
Bishop Angel Orozco of the Politécnico YSA Ward said a young single adult unit in Mexico “is giving many of our young single adults opportunities to not only interact socially, but to also have great spiritual experiences.”
Mexico is a proven power in the worldwide Church. Elders and sisters serving in 32 missions across the country continue to spread the gospel across the country, often with the support of members whose families have been in the Church for generations.
And now, said Bishop Orozco, many young sons and daughters of Mexico are gaining priceless leadership opportunities in the Politécnico Ward.
“Almost everyone in our ward has a significant calling because we have to fill priesthood quorum presidencies, Relief Society presidencies, Sunday School presidencies and teachers for both Spanish and English classes,” he said.
The bishop also calls today’s technology a latter-day blessing allowing him to minister to his growing flock, even during the ongoing pandemic.
“It is a difficult world to live in,” he said. “[Young members] can get depressed or anxious and feel like they are less of a person if they are not serving. So this sort of environment allows them to thrive. They are not losing sight of what their most important goals are.”
Like everywhere else in the world, COVID-19 continues to present challenges to Bishop Orozco and his ward members. When the Politécnico YSA Ward was formally organized shortly after the October general conference, local restrictions prevented the new unit from meeting longer than 30 minutes in person. Visitors ranging from General Authorities to stake leaders “each had about two minutes to speak” during a brief, albeit historic gathering.
“And yet we have learned to become more efficient in how we use our time,” said the bishop. “We have tried to be clear, succinct and powerful at the same time in our messages.”
Meanwhile, he said, on weeks when the ward is unable to congregate in person, “we transmit our sacrament meetings and other meetings such as Sunday School and Relief Society lessons on Zoom.”
Even when pandemic restrictions are eventually lifted in Mexico City, Bishop Orozco plans to continue utilizing virtual meetings for many of his interviews and other functions. With each passing week, they are proving to be reliable methods of staying connected.
Successfully organizing and operating Latin America’s first young single adult ward amid the challenges of a global health crisis “speak to the resilience of the young members and speaks to the guidance and revelation that the Lord is giving us to help us understand a new way of doing things.”
Still, Bishop Orozco is excited for the day when he can enjoy dances, dinners, sports and social events with the young people in his ward.
“We will be able to accomplish so much more,” he said.
Eric Velázquez, a 22-year-old returned missionary and the Politécnico Ward clerk, told the Church News that Mexico’s original young single adult ward “has exceeded my expectations because we have a great bishopric. It’s easy to feel the love of the Lord through them.”
Velázquez excitedly envisions many more young single adult wards operating across the Americas — a region of the world where the Church continues to grow and mature.
“This has been such a positive experience for me,” he said. “I hope that this YSA ward is just the first of many.”